If parents-to-be are looking for a beautiful baby name with a whimsical twist, look no further than the Celts. Celtic baby names always seem to have a musical, romantic sound to them conjuring up images of extraordinary landscapes and ancient myths.
Many people assume that 'Celtic' is the same as Irish but there are, in fact, seven Celtic 'nations.' They are the Isle of Mann, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall in England, Brittany in France, and Iberia which is across northern Spain and Portugal. These places are considered nations because they share a common culture and language and are distinct from being sovereign nations or countries as we know them today. All of these places, except Iberia, still have pockets of people who can speak the original Celtic language for their area.
Therefore Celtic names can come from a number of different countries and reflect an abundance of different cultures and backgrounds. So if your family has roots in any of these nations, a Celtic name can be an excellent choice.
Of course, you do not have to have a Celtic background to use a Celtic baby name. Such expressive, lyrical names are beautiful choices for any child. By choosing a Celtic baby name, you have the advantage of having a name that is, generally speaking, a relatively unremarkable selection in the nation of origin but almost unheard of in your own community.
The name Finlo originates in the Isle of Man and is derived from the Gaelic words ‘fionn’ which means fair, or white and ‘lug’ which means brightness or light”. The ‘lug’ part of the name might refer to the Pagan sun god “Lugh,” in which case the name would mean “fair Lugh.”
Finnlug is thought to be the original Irish form of the name and is a combination of the names of two well-known Pagan figures: Fionn mac Cumhaill and Lug Lámfhota. Fionn is the Irish giant who, it is said, built the Giant's Causeway so he could walk to Scotland without getting his feet wet and in the Manx version of the tale his footsteps are said to have carved out the geographical features of the Isle of Mann.
A Christianized variation, ‘Fionnlagh,’ removed the ‘lug’ reference to the Pagan sun god and replaced it with ‘lagh’ which means hero or warrior, and if you are looking for a similar name with a literary variation, Fynlogue was used by James Joyce in his novel Finnegans Wake.
Enora is a feminine name which originated in the Breton region of northern France. It is not just popular in France. However, it has become popular in a number of French-speaking countries and has recently seen an upsurge in popularity in Belgium.
Pronounced ‘EH no rah,' Enora means honor and is virtually unheard of outside of French speaking countries. Statistics for the United States show that there are many years where the name is not used at all and the highest number of babies named Enora in one year was ten.
The simple spelling and the fact that the name sounds exactly like how it is spelled means that by choosing Enora for your little girl you are unlikely ever to meet anyone else called Enora but the name will not be a severe burden throughout her life.
It is pretty enough for a baby and dignified enough for an adult so really this might be an almost perfect Celtic name.
Eghan is a timeworn Irish Celtic name which means Ardent, an adjective defined as enthusiastic or passionate. Pronounced ‘E-gan’ this name is experiencing a bit of a resurgence in Ireland, but its use is more or less confined to that part of the world.
There is little information about how this name came about or if Eghan is an evolution from another name. A comprehensive search across a number of myth and legend databases failed to turn up any references to Eghan, but it is clearly agreed to have just the one meaning.
Although it is used as a boy's first name, Eghan also crops up from time to time as a surname, in much the same way as Taylor can be a first or second name. There is also the rare instance of Eghan being used as a girl's name, but this is very unusual - not that most people would know if it was a ‘male’ or ‘female’ name.
Another name hailing originally from the Isle of Man, Calybrid means “servant of Saint Bridget.” The name is formed from the Irish word ‘cailleach’ which means nun or veiled one and the name Brid which is a contracted form of the name Bridget.
This Manx name is pronounced ‘KAH-lee breed’ and names beginning with ‘Caly’ were common in the North of the Isle of Man until the beginning of the 17th century. Before this time it was considered unacceptable to use a sacred name, such as that of a saint, for your child so using Caly, or ‘servant of’ in front of the name made it okay. Once it became alright to name your child using one of these sacred names the fashion for ‘Caly’ died out and along with it the use of such lovely names as Calybrid.
This name lends itself well to shortening to Caly, and Brid so is sure you also like both of these.
The name Tiernay is an anglicized form of the Irish Celtic baby boy name Tigernach. Both forms of the name mean ‘lord’ or ‘chief’ and imply that the holder of the name is ‘lord of the household.' The sixth-century saint, Tigernach of Clones was captured by a band of pirates and spirited away on their ship. The Pirates took him to the English king who arranged for him to be housed and educated in the monastery of Rosnat in England.
Tigernach traveled to Rome to collect holy relics and eventually returned to his homeland to become a bishop. In the town of Clones, which is situated in current day Northern Ireland, he established an Abbey, the ruins of which can be seen there today.
Tiernay is easier to spell and has a more obvious pronunciation (Teer nee) than Tigernach which is why the newer, yet still ancient, version makes this list.
Katell is the Breton Celtic version of Katherine, and the meaning of both names is said to be ‘pure.' Some theories say that the original versions of Katherine come from the Greek language and others say it is a variation of a Coptic name from Egypt or Alexandria.
One thing researchers do agree on is that in the early Christian period it became associated with the Greek καθαρος (katharos) meaning pure. Crusaders brought the name to Europe and Katherine became common in England and other English-speaking countries from the 12th century onwards.
Versions of Katherine can be found all across the world but Katell, pronounced “KAA T eh”, is almost exclusively used in the Breton area of Northern France. Although this is an unusual name, it can easily be shortened to the much more typical Kate if your little one wants to blend in a bit more when she is older.
Pronounced ‘FIN ton’ this popular Irish Celtic name possibly means either "white fire" or "white bull" in Gaelic, so it is a great name for a fair-haired little firecracker! According to the Irish legends, Fintan was the name of the only Irish person to survive the great flood mentioned in the Bible.
Fintan was also the name of a vast number of Irish saints and is a common choice in modern Ireland. This is a great alternative if you like the name Finn but want something just a little bit different. Finten gives you the flexibility of a slightly longer name if you want to be a more formal name or the short and snappy form Fin for fun.
There is a possibility you will cross paths with a Finn in the playground at some point, but Fintan gives you and your little one the opportunity to be distinguished from others.
Ula is a tricky name to pin down because it crops up in a number of cultures, each one with a different meaning. In Scandinavia, it is short for Ulrika which means wealthy, and it is also a popular abbreviation of Ursula, or little female bear, in Eastern Europe.
As a stand alone Celtic name Ula, pronounced ‘OO la” means sea jewel, but Ula could also be a shortened version of Ultana which has been mainly used in Northern Ireland as the feminine form of Ultan or Ultah which means ‘an Ulsterman.' Ultan was a seventh-century saint who took care of orphans and children who were ill and consequently became the patron saint of sick children, having a children's hospital in Dublin named after him.
Having multiple meanings in various cultures means you have to be sure you like this name, with all of its roots before you give it to your baby.
Cairbre is Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic in origin and is pronounced ‘KAHR bra.' The word Cairbre is Gaelic for ‘charioteer’ and was used as a term for those who raced chariots. It then evolved into a first name and became a popular choice in both Ireland and Scotland.
Then in more modern times, when people wanted to use anglicized versions of Gaelic names, it was changed to the newer version of Cabrey or Carby.
This unusual boy's name will guarantee your little fella is the only one in his class to have this name. In fact, he will probably be the only Cairbre you and your family will ever meet, unless of course, you have Scottish or Irish roots, in that case, you might well have another Cairbre lurking in your family tree.
The only thing you have to think of is if some little comedian decides to nickname your son Bra.
Nola is an Irish girl's name that is pronounced exactly how it sounds - ‘NO la.' A shortened version of Fionnuala which means “white shoulder’ from the Irish ‘fionn’ meaning “white, fair” and ‘guala’ meaning “shoulder.”
In Irish mythology, Fionnuala was a child of a Chieftain, Lir, and his wife, Aobh. Fionnuala and her three brothers Aedh, Conn, and Fiachra were all turned into swans by their stepmother Aoife because she was jealous of the love their father had for them.
Aoife condemned them to spend 900 years swimming as swans, but they could be changed back if they heard a Christian bell ringing. One day they all awoke to a bell ringing to welcome Saint Patrick to Ireland, they were returned to human form and baptized into the Christian church by Saint Patrick himself.
The disadvantage of this name is that you and your child may spend all of your time explaining that Nola is not short for something else.
Alroy is derived from the word run meaning red and is pronounced “AL ROY.” Not to be confused with the Cornish name Elroy, in Ireland this name means ‘red-haired, ’ and so it is perfect for your little ginger topped bundle of joy.
The US Social Security Administration, which keeps records of all baby names registered in the United States, shows the popularity of Alroy in the States peaked in 1932 when there were ten babies born in every million named Alroy. Since this time the number has hovered at around 3 or 4 children per million born to have been named Alroy.
For me, this would be a good choice for a little boy with ginger hair if you had Irish origins, but personally I would be concerned over people shortening it to Roy, a name that I am not a fan of. However, if you like this shortened form, it would be perfect for you.
Mavie is pronounced “MAH vee” and this beautiful Celtic girl's name is a Breton version of the more commonly heard English name Mavis. Meaning ‘Songbird’ Mavie is a beautiful, lilting name that is a lovely girly girl choice if that is what you are looking for and you could also choose this name if you were looking for something related to singing that didn’t jump out as too unusual. Virtually unheard of outside of Europe until a year or two ago Mavie has begun to increase in popularity but is still quite a rare choice.
The only drawback to this name is that it might get a little bit annoying having to explain that your name is Mavie and not Mavis. Other than that, there are limited ways to mix up or shorten this name, so you do not have to worry about your lovely name being turned into something ugly.
Celtic for ‘strong in battle’ Cathal could be an excellent name for a boy in a military family who wants to reflect their Celtic roots. Cathal is pronounced without the ‘th’ sound so the pronunciation is ‘KA hal’ which can take a bit of getting used to.
It was a popular boys name in Ireland during the middle ages and has recently become popular once more in the Republic of Ireland. One disadvantage to this name that people called Cathal have raised is how to pronounce the name. It is generally quite challenging for younger children to manage and can lead to some difficulties and strange pronunciations at school.
However, everyone who said this also said that when they were older, they loved this name and would not swap it for anything, even if they did have to explain how to pronounce it to every single person they met for the first time.
A beautiful Celtic girl's name that rolls off the tongue is Isolde and means ‘the fair.' A princess from Dublin, Isolde, pronounced ‘ee SOL da’ was pledged to marry King Mark of Cornwall who sent his nephew Tristan to collect her from Ireland. On the return journey, Isolde and Tristan accidentally drank a love potion and fell in love with each other.
There are three versions of what happened next. The Cornish version is where they both end up being protected by Sir Lancelot of Arthurian legend fame and having many adventures. The Irish version has Tristian killed and Isolde marrying Mark, becoming his Queen and building a tower to mark the boundary between Dublin and the wild Irish. The ruins of Isolde’s tower were discovered along the city quays in Dublin in July 1993.
In the Breton version, Tristan is banished to Brittany, sends for Isolde, the world's best physician, to heal some battle wounds. His wife is jealous and tells him Isolde is not coming and he dies of grief. Isolde arrives to find him dead, lays down beside him, and dies at his side.
The baby name Colum is Irish and is pronounced ‘KOLL am.' Used mainly in Ireland it has Latin roots and means ‘dove’. The English and Scottish varieties are both Callum, and Ceyln is the Welsh version.
It evolved from the late Latin name Columba which also means dove and is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in Christianity. Columbra, or Colum as he became known, was one of many early saints with this name.
Saint Colum established a monastery on the island of Iona which is located off of the west coast of Scotland. It is said that he then brought the Christian faith across the waters and is credited with converting the Scottish people to Christianity.
If you are looking for a name to reflect your Christian faith but do not want to fall back on the old faithful biblical names, Colum is an excellent choice for a boy.
The name Eveline can be found in Gaelic cultures as well as in England and France, but the meanings and the evolution of the name are different in Gaelic and non-Gaelic cultures.
In Ireland, Eveline is pronounced ‘Ave leen’ and is thought to have evolved from the Norman language. The meaning of this charming girl's name, in this context, is “wished for or longed for child.”
In literature, the name Eveline is famous as the title and lead character of a short story by the Irish writer James Joyce so it could be the perfect name if you would like something a little bit different that has a literary heritage to it.
Eveline doesn’t just have this history, though. It is also an English variant of Aveline, which in turn is a French version of Avila, a German name with no apparent meaning. If you choose Eveline for your baby just be aware of these two entirely different histories and meanings as they may have an impact on your choice.
Iollan is another Irish boy's name, this one meaning “one who worships a different god.” Pronounced ‘UL an’ this is a name that is individual and stands out without being too bizarre or out there.
Iollan is still relatively popular in Ireland and has seen a bit of a surge in use in Scotland as well, but you will not be bumping into any other Iollan’s in the United States because there the name is almost entirely unknown.
In Irish mythology, Iollan was the son of a king and a champion at the court of another king. He was sent to Scotland to retrieve a pair of lovers who had eloped and fled from Ireland and believed the king had forgiven the couple for their actions. When he returned, he discovered the king he served had not forgiven the couple but instead wanted revenge and so Iollan died defending the pair from the king.
Keelia, Keela, and Kyla are all forms of the same name. Meaning ‘slender or comely’ it is derived from the Gaelic word cadhla which means beautiful and implies “a beauty that can only be captured by poetry.”
Keelia is pronounced ‘KEE lee ah’ and is a traditional name in Ireland and Scotland, still in occasional use today. The disadvantage to this name is that instead of being a distinct old Celtic name it does sound a bit like you have just stuck the sound ‘ah’ on the end of the name Keely.
This might turn a few heads in the playground or the school yard for all of the wrong reasons, so I personally am not that keen on this one. However, if you are looking for a lovely girl's name that gives the nod to your Celtic heritage but doesn’t scream out as different, then Keelia might just be the perfect choice for you.
Gildas is one of those great boy’s names that just screams “I am a big sturdy guy standing on a cliff top with the wind blowing through my long wavy hair. Take a look at my rippling muscles”. It is the masculine form of the name Gilda, and they both mean ‘serves God.' The Breton version of this name is Gweltaz.
I love that this name has an exotic but rugged feel to it and that you are likely never to bump into someone else with this name. It is also relatively difficult to come up with a mean nickname for Gildas, although when I set our younger kids the task of trying to make a nickname they did come up with a suggestion. Unfortunately, our daughter declined to share the name because it would get her in trouble for saying a naughty word but I am pretty sure it rhymed with pass.
Berit is a Celtic girl's name that means intelligent. It is also a form of the name Brigid and Bridget is an anglicized version of the Irish name Brighid which means exalted one.
In Irish mythology, Brighid was the name of the goddess of fire, of wisdom, and of poetry. In the fifth century, it became the name of Saint Brigid, the founder of many Irish monasteries for nuns and who became one of the patron saints of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick. Because Brigid was a revered saint her name was considered sacred and was not used as a baby’s name until the 17th century.
There is much debate whether Saint Brigid was a real person or whether she was just a version of the goddess Brighid created by the Christian church to win over the Irish. Either way, Berit is a quite lovely name and deserves to be revived.
Depending on which version of English history and Arthurian legend you read, Cador was either the half-brother, the nephew or the cousin of King Arthur. Cadors role was to ready King Arthur for battle.
Coming from the ancient Celtic culture in Cornwall, Cador is pronounced ‘KAY door” and can also be abbreviated to Cady.
A legendary King in his own right, Cador raised Guinevere until her marriage to King Arthur and the two Kings were said to be good friends. Cador gave his name to a number of hillforts in Cornwall, and one in Wales, each of which was named Cadbury, or ‘Cadors Fort,’ and yes, that is where the name of the chocolate company comes from.
According to statistics, there are seven people in the United States called Cador, so you are guaranteed to be the first person in your circles to use this name unless of course, you are related to one of those existing Cadors.
A light and airy girl's name Aoife is a fabulous choice for someone looking for a unique name that works for a child and an adult. Pronounced ‘EE fa’ this is a Celtic name from Ireland that means “beautiful, radiant, joy.”
Irish myths and legends are resplendent with women named Aoife. Aoife Dearg (Red Aoife) was an Irish princess who had her marriage arranged by Saint Patrick and another Aoife, Aoife mother of Connlach, was known as the greatest woman warrior in the world.
A very popular choice in Ireland, Aoife was third in the girls' baby names top ten of 2013. However, you do not need to worry. Outside of Ireland, this name is virtually unknown, so your little girl won’t be one of three Aoifes in her class.
This name also has the advantage of being well used in Ireland so you can quickly demonstrate it was not something you made up!
Locryn is the Cornish Celtic version of Locrinus, a legendary king of Britain who ruled over an area that is roughly equivalent to England today. Locrinus was betrothed to the Gwendolin, the daughter of Brutus but had fallen in love with Estrildis, a German princess.
Bullied into marrying Gwendolin by his new Queen's father, Locrinus kept his rule love hidden in a cave under London for seven years. Once his father-in-law died, Locrinus left Gwendolin and made Estrildis, with whom he had had a daughter, his new Queen.
Gwendolyn returned to Cornwall, raised an army and killed Lorrinus, taking his crown and becoming Queen and ruler of England.
Locryn, which is pronounced ‘LOK rin’ is not to be confused with the Irish name Lochlan which comes from the Viking invaders of Ireland and was usually given to a boy with fair or red hair.
This possible mix-up with the two names is something to consider if you do not want to be correcting people all of the time.
There are a number of definitions for Neala, an Irish feminine form of Nial, which is the original Gaelic spelling of Neil. However, all of the definitions found are very similar in nature. One definition says it means ‘leader,' another gives the meaning as ‘female champion’ and yet another says it means ‘having chieftains.' One thing that all of the given definitions of Neala that our research turned up have in common is that they all attribute female strength and leadership to the name.
Neala is pronounced as ‘NEE la’ and is a fabulous choice of name if you are looking for a strong yet feminine name for your little girl. There are a number of ways it can be shortened, for example, Neel or Nell, so be sure there isn’t an abbreviation you absolutely hate before you bestow this name on that shiny new bundle of joy of yours.
Sources: babynamesofireland.com, behindthename.com, britishbabynames.com